Kids Are Left In Tears After Listening To Each Other's Baggage During Teacher's New Kindness Activity (Interview)
For some people, teaching is not just a job — it’s a calling.
Kids Are Left In Tears After Listening To Each Other's Baggage During Teacher's New Kindness Activity (Interview)
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For some people, teaching is not just a job — it’s a calling. These teachers genuinely care about their students’ lives and problems and aren’t just waiting for the school day to end quicker.

One brilliant teacher who deeply cares about the kids in her class is Karen Wunderlich Loewe, an English Language Arts teacher at Collinsville Middle School, in Oklahoma. She cares about her students’ emotional and mental wellbeing so much, she tried out ‘The Baggage Activity’ in school, with astounding results.

Scroll down for Bored Panda’s interview with the teacher!

Kids anonymously wrote down what’s hurting or bothering them (i.e. their ‘baggage’) on a piece of paper, scrunched it up, and put it in a bag. Then, they all took turns reading them out loud. Those who wanted to, admitted that it was their baggage they were talking about. The students’ stories were heartrendingly raw.

In class, you would rarely expect kids to talk about death, cancer, suicide, drug-use in the family, as well as parents going to prison. But that’s exactly what they talked about with their teacher Karen. This makes you realize the type of emotional weight that some school kids have to carry on their shoulders every day.

However, there were flashes of (dark) comedy to be found in the classroom as well. For example, one of the kids said that their gerbil died ‘because it was fat.’ Alas, poor gerbil, we hardly knew ye.

Bored Panda interviewed Karen about ‘The Baggage Activity’ and here’s what she had to say: “I needed to do something to make my kids realize that other people go through other things and some maybe the same as them. I wanted them to be more kind to each other. The middle school age can be a difficult and trying time. I wanted to instill some empathy with them.”

She continued: “I don’t know if any other teachers in my school or area who have done it. Since I’ve done this, I have had other teachers all over the world incorporate it into their classroom. My life changed because it went viral and people from all over the world contacted me. Lots of positive feedback along with a very few haters.”

According to Karen, the long-term effect of the activity was how helpful it was to come back to it if someone was ‘hateful to a classmate and then they quit being mean.’

“I would recommend this for adults as well,” she added. “We have even more baggage and things we have gone through as we get older. It helps to open up and realize you’re not alone. As adults, we pretend that everything is ok and we have it all figured out when in reality, that is far from the truth.”

The teacher had some advice for others in her profession who want to support their students: “They have to be genuine. Kids can see right through us. They know if we care or love them. If we don’t have a relationship with them, they won’t open up and trust us.”

However, Karen noted that ‘The Baggage Activity’ isn’t for everyone. “I have a personality that, thankfully, has blessed me to be a teacher who the kids open up to. I’m very up-front, to the point, but also show them some love. I sincerely hope others just do whatever is best for their kids. We, as teachers, know what is best for our students and no one else can tell you what will work best. It’s your call.”

According to Karen, this was one of the most emotional days she’s ever had as a teacher. Lots of people were affected by her story. When she shared it on Facebook, it went viral and now has nearly a million likes and over 637,000 shares. Any teacher is able to follow in Karen’s footsteps, but it doesn’t necessarily mean doing ‘The Baggage Activity.’

Teach Hub explains that any teacher is capable of helping their students deal with difficult periods in their lives, say when their parents are getting divorced or one of their family members is seriously ill.

Teachers provide consistency and a routine that helps students have a firm foundation to stand on, no matter what is happening outside of school. So help bring some order to your students’ lives. Furthermore, teachers who are compassionate and reinforce their students’ strengths will help them flourish. This way, the kids will also feel important and wanted, not neglected.

Comments (46)
Mewton’s Third Paw
Interesting exercise, and reasonable criticism. I think the idea of tossing the baggage and leaving it at the door was nice but asking the kids to talk about it openly is a little scary. Maybe just have them toss it and then let them know that as teacher, you’re available to the students if they ever want to open up. I commend the kids for handling it well.
Leo Domitrix
All I can think is: Sharing out loud = handing out ammo for bullies to use later.
Claire
Why did you laugh at a dead pet? I am sure that the student loved the little baby a lot (which is why they wrote it down) and they are laughed at?
goodmorning
I don't like the fact that this teacher expose the class in the internet with the thoughts of the kids. , Second expose the deeply thoughts and fears of each kids to the class. One kid wrote that his gerbill has died because was fat and the class giggled..well how that kid feels now? And how she know that the kids don't recognize the handwriting?
C
Seems a little too personal to be reading the stuff out loud. I'm sure kids may be able to figure some of them out. How about just burning the papers?
Sotsonwift
privacy as a concept seems to be slipping away
DrGirlfriend
If I had one person to reach out to me, just one person who cared enough to ask, it could of changed my life dramatically....
Hope Floats
I think this is a fantastic idea.. Many children (and young adults) find it really 'awkward' to talk about what really saddens them and an outlet like this would provide that. When my daughter was 4,i had a little boy who I sadly lost at 4 months old and so she remembers him a 'little bit' but more so through the photos I had up. She only told me recently how sad she was about her brother , growing up, but didn't want to upset me by asking about him, so she bottled it all up and only asked me (through fear I think) when she had a little boy a few years ago. If there had been an outlet like this, it would have given her that opportunity to share this and perhaps even given her the confidence to bring her brother into one of our 'how was your day' conversations.
Whatever...
I agree with the folks saying this gives other kids ammunition. When I was 12, my young friend from a different school was killed by her school bus. During my absence, my teacher 'prepared ' the class to be compassionate toward me by reading them the newspaper article. I was off for a few days. When I returned, during recess, 4 of my classmates reenacted her death in front of me. Plus, one of the kids this teacher mentioned was sad because his pet died, so they laughed because it was fat? Wtf?
Aunt Messy
Asking kids to bleed in public for the entertainment of others is NEVER a good idea. Demanding to know who wrote something and then grilling them about it in front of their classmates guarantees that the bullies have more fuel than they could have had in their wildest dreams. ...///... This was a HORRIBLE idea.
PoAngielsku
What was the point of it being anonymous if she then asked who wrote it?!
Olive
I can see how this can have a positive and negative impact, for those not willing to open up and share yet this would probably not be a good idea, but for others that are willing to share and haven't had the chance to it could be beneficial for them.
Gonzalo Terán
The idea is good. But I would prefer that the reading of those papers should be done by the teacher, AFTER a preselection. And not asking if the person would share more ´bout it. Otherwise, it could lead to bullying afterwards.
Kai
Yes sure, obligate me as a kid to share what is going on on my non-strustured house in front of my bullies. Thank you.
Bubble***tea 3
We need more schools doing this. If you're a teacher please do this. So MANY kids will be so relieved if u do this.
Susan
This is wonderful. It's an example of how we can do better as human beings. Most children will follow their better angels if they are gently led by caring adults.
Pittsburgh rare
I think it's a positive exercise as long as anonymity is guaranteed. There are similar experiences where kids write something and put it in a place where only the teacher can read it. Then the teacher can reach out to the students for a chat or the other way around.
Bored Phoenix
This is so powerful. It always feels good to open up and let out everything thats going wrong in your life. I wish more people did this. It would change lives
Donna Reynolds
Wonderful idea. Teams in business should do the same before starting a project.
And now I know why American education has fallen way behind other countries...
Kim Lorton
msduane, that was a good explanation. I look forward to reading more about this from you.
A
I had big struggles as a child and I would have hated this activity. I worked hard to keep the difficult part of my life private and this would have shattered me. School was my safe place. This would have made me feel vulnerable. It's good for kids to know that their classmates and others they meet might in life might be suffering somehow and to be compassionate to everyone, but this teacher overstepped her boundaries by forcing kids to share at school.
Katinka Min
Puh. While she meant really well, I don't think this is something a teacher should do, especially on their own. It goes too deep and is too personal. This belongs in the hands of psychologists/psychiatrists. What if a child would have been seriously triggered - does the teacher have the means to prevent a traumatic meltdown? Some tools are so strong they need to be in trained hands.
Martha Meyer
This is a brilliant idea! I can't believe all the negativity in the comments.
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